WINNEBAGO, Neb. — The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska is going green in a big way.
The reservation plans to install 1,000 solar panels across 13 sites that will generate more than 300 kilowatts of solar power that are projected to reduce energy bills by about $40,000 a year.
The project is made possible by two grants that Ho-Chunk Inc. — the tribe’s economic development arm — received through the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs.
Grants funds totaled $394,500 and Ho-Chunk provided matching funds upping the total to $789,000. Ho-Chunk applied for those grants and 11 others in December and received notification in June of the two it was awarded.
In a release, Ho-Chunk Inc. President and CEO Lance Morgan noted the importance of this solar project to the Winnebago Reservation.
“Winnebago is going solar,” he said. “These grants are really a big deal for the whole community. Ho-Chunk Inc. has always been committed to finding ways to be less dependent on traditional electric and gas energy for our operations. Over the years, we have saved thousands of dollars with solar projects on many of our buildings in Ho-Chunk Village. However, these new grants will allow us to make a greater impact with energy savings across the reservation.”
Morgan thinks after the completion of this latest project, the Winnebago Reservation will boast one of the largest renewable infrastructures in Nebraska.
Additionally, Ho-Chunk is working with Nebraska Renewable Energy Systems to bring more green projects to the reservation, a list that includes replacing the wind turbine at Little Priest Tribal College, installing a solar panel farm near the Pony Express convenience store on the north end of the reservation, and more.
Morgan noted the importance of clean energy and self-reliance as reasons for increasing the amount of renewable energy sources on the reservation.
“As Native Americans, we feel it is the right thing to do for our environment,” he said. “Historically, we lived in harmony with our land, and want to do so again. As with our mission to be economically self-sufficient, we want to be energy self-sufficient as well and look at all opportunities to make that happen. We don’t want to be reliant on anyone else but ourselves for our long-term needs.”